This morning I’m down at a beach restaurant called the White Dragon. The name sounds formidable but it’s a great little cafe run by a sweet woman and her kids. They make a good cup of coffee and that is why I’m here. Rob and I have a ferry booked for 1pm out to an Island called Koh Rong. There’s a light rain falling, which is heaven compared to the usual blasting sun. Anything to take the edge off the heat. The island will be without internet, and power except for a couple hours a day, from what I’m told. It’s a 2 hour ferry ride south into the ocean.
We talked about doing a fast while we’re there. Take a break from the norm, ditch the internet, phone, and maybe even food. Try to dial it in a little spiritually. I’ve heard fasting called “voluntary weakness.” It’s not about praying more or doing more. It’s about doing less and letting God do more.
Food. What a topic. Just trying to go without for a few days can be a struggle. It’s a necessity for sure, but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean you’ll die without it? Yes, but does it mean you’ll die without eating an absolute mountain of it every meal?
One thing I’ve noticed over the past few weeks here in Cambodia is that I’ve lost weight, which always happens here. I’m a 2 meal per day guy anyway, usually coffee in the morning, lunch, and dinner. So what’s different? One answer. Smaller portions. Every night at dinner, it’s some sort of meat, rice, salad, and a small bottle of water… Maybe go all out and get a Mango shake. It’s affordable and good, and it’s ENOUGH. The only thing running through my mind is, “If I were sitting at my Mom’s table and ‘seconds’ were available, I would eat twice this much.” But I’m not about to order a whole second dinner even though it crosses my mind and only costs $3. “Let it settle in a little and you’ll be satisfied,” I tell myself.
In America we’re about massive portions. Huge Cokes, 20 oz. coffees, and Super Sized EXTRA value meals. Just think about those words. 3 out of 4 descriptives make a case for it being massive and the last word, “value” says it’s good money management to drink a 44 oz Coke. It’s the right thing to do. I actually love the portions in America. Europeans have no problem with paying $2-3 for tiny coffee
called an Americano or a Latte in a mini-tea cup I can drink in one gulp. I love a 20 oz. Starbucks coffee with a shot or two of espresso tossed in just to make sure. Doing things “wide open” is my favorite speed. My wise Grandfather used to say, “Moderation in all things…” He lived to be 92. I’ll be lucky to make 62.
Does this over-doing everything come from the thought in the back of my mind that there might not be enough? I know from attempts at personal rehabilitation in the past that this is part of it. Lets say, I’m quitting something January 1st, the classic New Year’s Resolution “setting a date to make myself feel better.” Is there a tendency to slow down December 29, 30, and 31, so the break is easier? NEVER. It’s pedal to the medal, ramped up to the max until the very last second. In fact, the last day is probably the day with the most excess. I know the human psyche is complex and everyone is different, but that’s the way my brain works.
I think fasting (not only food) is good. It’s taught in the Bible and self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Telling my giant, self-centered ego, “No” once in a while probably doesn’t hurt anything. Sometimes it might even take going to an island without the internet to keep me from logging into Facebook for a few days.
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22-23
Self control is probably last in the list because it’s the characteristic requiring the greatest maturity and the last fruit to grow from fellowship with the Spirit. It’s easy to get focussed on failures, see the standard, and despair. The good news is that even the desire to possess any of these is indication that there’s a start. It’s the mustard seed that will eventually grown into the tree. He will finish the work he started, so I’m thankful for that.